At the time of my walk along the Derwent River through the suburb of Claremont, I explained Claremont House was not close enough for me to deviate from the tracks near the shores of the River – so I did not visit. However, yesterday I was delighted to be able to explore the historic property of Claremont House, tour its premises and enjoy High Tea with friends over three wonderful hours. What a great experience! A big thanks to one of my blog followers Me for organising this.
In my earlier posting History of our Claremont by the Derwent River, I referred to Claremont House (alternatively known as Lady Clark House), gave the street address, and explained it was built in the early 19th century by Henry Bilton who lived there for some time. If you revisit that posting you can click on many websites giving photographs and further information.
I now know that the property once extended to the edge of the Derwent River and included the entire peninsula on which the Cadbury chocolate factory and the Claremont Golf Course sit currently. On this basis, and because Claremont House’s current view looks across the River, it seemed appropriate to include the story of my visit into this blog.
After turning off the main road through Claremont into Lady Clark Avenue, ornate wrought iron gates signalled arrival at the current boundary of the Claremont House property.
I learnt these were not original gate structures and that the originals, excepting one, were removed and dumped into the Derwent River at some stage. The one remaining original post, looking rather worse for wear, is currently located on Claremont’s main road around the corner from Lady Clark Avenue.
We drove up a winding driveway then immediately enjoyed the moist summer air as we and other visitors strolled past a couple of horses towards the house.
Looking along the bottom balcony it was clear the wisteria was doing its best to take over. Tranquillity reigned.
The 33 room house, with its ‘widows walk’ topping the structure, has suffered from a chequered history of public and private ownership, but the current owner Joel Van Sanden is passionate about restoring the property in alignment with a specialist conservation plan, and the changes are proceeding. It has been a painstaking and slow process enlisting the involvement of the few remaining tradesmen who specialise in heritage work of the type needed for this House.
I was especially impressed by the ceiling ‘rose’ in the original ballroom for the fine quality of the tree fern fronds. It was the highlight of my visit.
The full size pool table weighing over 4 tonnes, is a magnificent piece of furniture. I noted its feet rested on stone foundations.
The generous and freshly made High Tea (scones jam and cream, mini quiches, egg sandwiches, chicken sandwiches, and much more) was served in a beautifully restored ballroom. The photo below shows only a small portion of the space.
We listened to the owner explain the history of ownership and the effects on the shape and state of the building. In small groups he led us on a series of interesting staircases up to the ‘widows walk’ from where we had a 360 degree view covering the Derwent River, Mount Wellington and much much more.
Later we strolled through the grounds and learnt about past extensions and outer buildings, extensive gardens and glass houses.
Finally I ambled down the hill to see the House from another angle, and found myself at a fountain below a walkway sided with apple trees.
If I had been told in advance that the tour and tea visit would take 3 hours, I might have baulked. I am glad I did not know this because my time at Claremont House offered me a rich and varied experience. The owner was energetic, well informed, and experienced with the process of turning Claremont House from what it had become, a sow’s ear, into a silk purse. The restoration process continues and I will look forward to revisiting from time to time, to see new developments. The price is $30 full adult and $25 concession. This has to be the best value around.